Total: 1 day 2 hr 50 min(includes cooling and chilling times)
Active: 20 min
Yield:1 gallon (8 to 10 servings as a snack or appetizer)
1 of 10 servings
Every summer, my husband’s best friend and his twin brother, Oleg and Denis, gift us with a batch of their pickled watermelon. The first time I tried it I was so surprised by the delicious explosion of sweet, savory and tart flavors! Inspired by their Ukrainian great grandfather's recipe, I created this version that hits all the notes of the classic Ukrainian treat: sweetness from watermelon, freshness from dill and a hint of heat from jalapeño. The dish stems from the older tradition of barrel-fermenting whole watermelons—a practice thought to have originated from German immigrants in Russia. Here, slices of the fruit are pickled with salt, sugar and two types of vinegar, which provide plenty of tang. Beyond Ukraine, you can find variations of this pickled watermelon in Russia, Georgia and many Eastern European countries, where pickling to preserve food through the long winters was essential. It’s now my favorite way to enjoy the watermelon season a little longer.
Combine the sugar, salt, both vinegars, peppercorns and 1 cup cold water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar and salt are dissolved, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat; add the garlic, jalapeño and bay leaves. Let steep until the brine has cooled slightly, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, scrub the watermelon rind several times with a damp clean dish towel, making sure to remove any excess dirt or debris. Cut the wedge in half lengthwise then slice each half crosswise into 1-inch-thick wedges, each no more than 3 inches wide. Place in a clean 1-gallon wide-mouth glass jar, alternating with the bell pepper, celery and dill sprigs (so that all the watermelon isn’t sitting on the bottom). Set aside.
Once the brine has cooled slightly, add 2 cups ice and stir until the ice melts completely. Add the 2 cups cold filtered water and stir until fully incorporated. The brine should be fully cooled by this point. If not, let it cool completely on the counter.
Pour or ladle the brine into the jar. The watermelon and vegetables should be fully submerged. If not, add up to 1 1/2 cups cold filtered water. Close the jar with the lid and let sit in a cool place away from direct sunlight for 2 hours, then refrigerate for 24 hours.
After the 24 hours, the pickled watermelon and vegetables are ready to enjoy! Keep any remaining in the fridge where it will be good for up to 1 month.
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